Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/397

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SCHUMANN.

began to compose, as he tells us himself, before he was seven. According to this he must have begun to play the piano, at latest, in his sixth year. When he was about eleven, he accom- panied at a performance of Friedrich Schneider's ' Weltgericht,' conducted by Kuntzsch, standing up at the piano to do it. At home, with the aid of some young musical companions, he got up performances of vocal and instrumental music which he arranged to suit their humble powers. In more extended circles too, he appeared as a pianoforte-player, and is said to have had a wonderful gift for extempore playing. His father took steps to procure for him the tuition of C. M. von Weber, who had shortly before (1817) been appointed Capellmeister in Dresden. Weber declared himself ready to undertake the guidance of the young genius, but the scheme fell through for reasons unknown. From that time Schumann remained at Zwickau, where circumstances were not favourable to musical progress ; he was left to his own instruction, and every inducement to further progress must have come from himself alone. Under these circumstances, a journey made when he was nine years old to Carlsbad, where he first heard a great pianoforte-player Ignaz Moscheles must have been an event never to be forgotten; and indeed during his whole life he retained a predilection for certain of Moscheles's works, and a reverence for his person. The influence of the pianoforte technique of Moscheles on him appears very distinctly in the variations published as op. i .

At the age of ten he entered the 4th class at the Gymnasium (or Academy) at Zwickau, and remained there till Easter, 1828. He had then risen to the ist class, and left with a certifi- cate of qualification for the University. During this period his devotion to music seems to have been for a time rather less eager, in consequence of the interference of his school-work and of other tastes. Now, at the close of his boy- hood, a strong interest in poetry, which had been previously observed in him, but which had meanwhile been merged in his taste for music, revived with increased strength ; he rum- maged through his father's book-shop, which favoured this tendency, in search of works on the art of poetry ; poetical attempts of his own were more frequent, and at the age of 14 Robert had already contributed some literary efforts to a work brought out by his father and called ' Bil- dergallerie der beriihmtesten Menschen aller Volker und Zeiten' (Portrait-gallery of the most famous men of all nations and times). That he had a gift for poetry is' evident from two Epithalamia given by Wasielewski (Biographie Schumann's, 3rd ed., Bonn 1880, p. 305). In 1827 he set a number of his own poems to music, and it is worthy of note that it was not by the classical works of Goethe and Schiller that Schumann was most strongly attracted. His favourite writers were Schulze, the tender and rhapsodical author of ' Diebezauberte Rose' (The Enchanted Rose); and the unhappy Franz vonSonnenberg, who went out of his mind ; of foreign poets, Byron especially j in. FT. 3.

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��but above all, Jean Paul, with whose works he made acquaintance in his 1 7th year (at the same time as with the compositions of Franz Schubert). These poets represent the cycle of views, senti- ments and feelings, under whose spell Schumann's poetical taste, strictly speaking, remained through- out his life. And in no musician has the influence of his poetical tastes on his music been deeper than in him.

On March 29, 1828, Schumann matriculated at the University of Leipzig as Studiosus Juris. It would have been more in accordance with his inclinations to have devoted himself at once wholly to art, and his father would no doubt have consented to his so doing ; but he had lost his father in 1826, and his mother would not hear of an artist's career. Her son dutifully submitted, although decidedly averse to the study of juris- prudence. Before actually joining the university he took a short pleasure trip into South Germany, in April, 1828. He had made acquaintance in Leipzig with a fellow-student named Gisbert Rosen ; and a common enthusiasm for Jean Paul soon led to a devoted and sympathetic friendship. Rosen went to study at Heidelberg, and the first object of Schumann's journey was to accompany him on his way. In Munich he made the ac- quaintance of Heine, in whose house he spent several hours. On his return journey he stopped at Bayreuth to visit Jean Paul's widow, and re- ceived from her a portrait of her husband.

During the first few months of his university life, Schumann was in a gloomy frame of mind. A students' club to which he belonged for a time, struck him as coarse and shallow, and he could not make up his mind to begin the course of study he had selected. A large part of the first half- year had passed by and still as he writes to his friend he had been to no college, but 'had worked exclusively in private, that is to say, had played the piano and written a few letters and Jean Pauliads.'

In this voluntary inactivity and solitude the study of Jean Paul must certainly have had a special charm for him. That writer, unsurpassed in depicting the tender emotions, with his dazzling and even extravagant play of digressive fancy, his excess of feeling over dramatic power, his inces- sant alternations between tears and laughter, has always been the idol of sentimental women and ecstatic youths. ' If everybody read Jean Paul,* Schumann writes to Rosen, ' they would be better- natured, but they would be unhappier ; he has often brought me to the verge of desperation, still the rainbow of peace bends serenely above all the tears, and the soul is wonderfully lifted up and tenderly glorified.' In precisely the same way did Gervinus give himself up for a time to the same influence ; but his manly and vigorous nature freed itself from the enervating spell. Schumann's artistic nature, incomparably more finely strung, remained permanently subject to it. Even in his latest years he would become violently angry if any one ventured to doubt or criticise Jean Paul's greatness as an imaginative writer, and the close affinity of their natures is

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